Wide Range of Assistance for Laid-Off Workers

By Kathy Gurchiek Dec 10, 2008
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Workers at a Chicago window-making plant who were laid off in December 2008 with only three days’ notice and without the pay they say is owed them have captured national attention.

The 240 workers, who have staged a peaceful sit-in at the plant since Dec. 5 to protest the abrupt layoff and lack of severance and other benefits, have become a symbol of the troubled U.S. economy as news of layoffs around the country has become a daily litany.

Bank of America, the plant’s creditor, has pulled Republic Windows & Doors’ credit line because of the plant’s declining sales. However, it informed the plant in a Dec. 9 letter that it would “provide a limited amount of additional loans to Republic to help fund a comprehensive resolution” to the employees’ claims.

Those claims, one worker told National Public Radio, are for “extended health care, to get our payments and vacations, [and] severance pay. What we really want here is to save the jobs.”

Findings from an October 2008 survey that the Society for Human Resource Management released in December found that employers who laid off workers in the past 12 months provided a range of benefits.

Severance is the most commonly provided assistance—74 percent of 433 HR professionals said their employers provided this to employees in the last year—but a new global study of 28 countries from Right Management found that U.S. employees earn the least amount of severance pay worldwide, regardless of the level of employee or amount of tenure.

Other assistance employers provide to employees they lay off, SHRM found, included:

  • Extended health care benefits (44 percent).
  • References (40 percent).
  • Outplacement (38 percent).
  • Priority consideration for reassignment to another job within the organization (33 percent).
  • Career counseling (28 percent).
  • Job search training and interview coaching (both 19 percent).
  • Networking opportunities (18 percent).
  • Use of office space during job search (8 percent).
  • Skills training program (5 percent).

Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor for HR News. She can be reached at kathy.gurchiek@shrm.org

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